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Waterways of Russia Aboard Volga Dream

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Departure Dates

  • Jun 28, 2017 - Jul 09, 2017


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Waterways of Russia Aboard Volga Dream

Experience the timeless pageantry and traditional folkways of Russia, revealed along the scenic rivers and canals that link St. Petersburg with Moscow. Between these two grand cultural capitals lies a countryside seemingly untouched by the modern age. Golden-domed churches rise up from the early morning mist, quaint wooden villages and old-world farms dot the verdant landscape, and the gentle light of lingering summer evenings gives an otherworldly aura to the banks of Russia’s great “blue road” of inland waterways.

Tour Map
Russia map

Study Leader
David McDonald is the Alice D. Mortenson/Petrovich Distinguished Professor of Russian History with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native of Saskatchewan, he earned his BA and MA at the University of Toronto and took his doctorate at Columbia University in New York. He joined the Department of History at UW-Madison in 1988. Since coming to Madison, McDonald has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on imperial Russian history, as well as modern Europe. His research and publication covers such topics as Russian foreign policy and philosophy, in addition to the history of modern sports. He also serves as a general editor for the international project, Russia’s Great War and Revolution, 1914-1922, a 25-book series offered by Slavica Publishers. An avid supporter of the WAA, he has spoken frequently at Founder’s Day events around the country and has hosted or lectured on tours in Russia, Europe and Britain. This is his third voyage on the “Waterways of Russia.”

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Wednesday, June 28
Depart the U.S. St. Petersburg, Russia

Thursday, June 29
Arrive in regal St. Petersburg, Peter the Great’s elegant urban achievement and Russia’s cultural capital, and transfer to the deluxe small ship M.S. VOLGA DREAM. The ship remains docked overnight on the great Neva River, which flows majestically through the heart of St. Petersburg, known as Russia’s “Venice of the North.” (D)

St. Petersburg
Friday, June 30

Explore the city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where legendary landmarks are scattered across more than 100 islands and linked by more than three times as many bridges. St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt, showcases exquisite examples of Russian Baroque and neoclassical architecture. See the ornate Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood (Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ), built on the site of Emperor Alexander II’s assassination; see the iconic golden spire of the Admiralty; and visit 19th-century St. Isaac’s Cathedral to admire its dazzling interior of malachite and lapis lazuli—the church’s striking golden dome is one of the glories of the city’s skyline. Tour St. Petersburg’s oldest edifice, the Peter and Paul Fortress, built in 1703 to guard the country’s only outlet to the Baltic Sea. The impressive Baroque-style Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul contains the tombs of czars from Peter the Great to Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs. This afternoon, enjoy time on your own or join the optional excursion to visit the imperial compound of Pushkin and Catherine the Great’s elaborate Rococo palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the extraordinary Amber Room, laden with six tons of solid amber, deftly carved and framed in gold leaf, and said to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Stripped and confiscated by the Nazis in 1941, it was meticulously reconstructed in 2003 in honor of the 300th anniversary of the city of St. Petersburg. This evening, you may choose to attend an optional Russian ballet or musical folk show (performance schedule to be determined). (B,L,D)

St. Petersburg
Saturday, July 1

Enjoy a specially reserved early entrance and tour of the UNESCO World Heritage-designated State Hermitage Museum, the former czarist palace of Catherine the Great and the repository of one of the world’s oldest and most important art collections, rivaled only by the museum’s lavish interior. View the priceless collection of 19th- and 20th-century French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works as well as 74 masterpieces “lost” in a storeroom during World War II and rediscovered in 1995. The afternoon is at leisure in St. Petersburg, or you can choose to join the optional excursion to skim over the Gulf of Finland by hydrofoil to UNESCO World Heritage-designated Petrodvorets, the grand summer palace and splendid parklands commissioned by Peter the Great to rival Versailles. Enjoy the Captain’s Welcome Reception this evening as the ship departs St. Petersburg. (B,L,R,D)

Neva River/Lake Ladoga/Mandrogi/Svir River/Lake Onega
Sunday, July 2

Admire the passing wilderness of serene meadows, virgin pine and birch forests lining the banks of the mighty Neva River and the shores of Lake Ladoga, the largest freshwater reservoir in Europe. This afternoon, the ship calls at Mandrogi, a small riverside village evoking the peaceful, traditional ways of rural life, where you will have time to explore on your own before continuing along the sparkling Svir River between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega, dotted with over 1,600 small islands. (B,L,D)

Kizhi Island/Lake Onega
Monday, July 3

Early this morning, be on deck for the unforgettable approach to picturesque Kizhi Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tour this remarkable open-air museum, a treasure trove of 18th-century Karelian and north Russian wooden architecture. Admire the Church of the Transfiguration, an architectural masterpiece featuring 22 cupolas built completely of wood without a single nail. Enjoy an afternoon cruise on scenic Lake Onega in view of the beautifully untouched, pastoral Karelian countryside, home to both ethnic Finns and Russians. (B,L,D)

Lake Beloye/Goritsy/Sheksna River
Tuesday, July 4

Along the shores of Lake Beloye, admire rural communities continuing the traditions of Old Russia. From the tranquil village of Goritsy, visit the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, founded in 1397, and see its collection of paintings, early printed books and pictorial embroidery. It is said that Vasily III came here to pray for an heir, and soon after, his wife Elena gave birth to the future Ivan the Terrible, the fi rst czar of Russia. Further along the Sheksna River, catch glimpses of a bygone era as you pass by rustic family farms and quaint dachas, traditional Russian wooden cottages. This evening, enjoy a dinner of typical Russian specialties followed by a specially arranged sampling of Russian vodkas. (B,L,D)

Lake Rybinskoye/Yaroslavl
Wednesday, July 5

This morning, cruise Lake Rybinskoye, surrounded by scenic wilderness. Following lunch, dock in Yaroslavl, the oldest city on the Volga River and one of the “Golden Ring” of fortified 11th- to 15th-century cities and villages built to encircle Moscow. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the “Florence of Russia,” is renowned for its 17th-century stone churches crowned with painted onion domes and soaring turrets. Stroll along the river to the Church of Elijah the Prophet, an exquisite architectural masterpiece located in the heart of the Old Town and fi lled with well-preserved frescoes. See the magnificent fortified Monastery of the Transfiguration, founded in the 12th century. (B,L,D)

Uglich/Volga River
Thursday, July 6

Arrive in the “Golden Ring” city of Uglich and walk to the 17th-century Church of Prince Dimitri-on-the-Blood, built on the site where Ivan the Terrible’s young son met his tragic demise. Admire its cluster of red turrets capped with shimmering blue onion domes and the elegant frescoes that adorn the interior. Continue on to see the stately five-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration, built along the Volga River in 1713. This afternoon, cruise the great Volga River, the main artery of the Russian heartland for over a millennium, and into the Moscow Canal, which gives Moscow access to the White, Baltic, Caspian, Azov and Black Seas. Kizhi Island’s 17th-century Church of the Transfiguration is built completely of wood and without a single nail. Attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Friday, July 7

Arrive in Russia’s illustrious capital city, which has embodied the heart and soul of the country for over 850 years and is located on the banks of the tranquil Moscow River. Explore Moscow’s cultural and historical treasures beginning with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Kremlin and the imposing halls of this fabled “Citadel of the Czars.” Tour the Armoury, the oldest museum in Russia, and see the authentic imperial treasures including magnificently bejeweled Faberge eggs commissioned by the Romanov czars. See magisterial Red Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where both Romanov czars and Soviet commissars have flexed their might and power, and admire the multicolored grandeur of the 16th-century St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the country’s most strikingly beautiful Orthodox monuments. (B,L,D)

Saturday, July 8

During the panoramic city tour, see Moscow’s most impressive sites including the Bolshoi Theatre, the monument to Peter the Great, the golden-domed Cathedral of Christ the Savior and Moscow University. From University Square, admire a picturesque view out across the entire city. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore Moscow on your own. (B,L,D)

Sunday, July 9

Disembark the ship and continue on the Moscow Post-Cruise Option, or transfer to the airport for your flight to the U.S. (B)